Former fashion model Chaniel Andran has spent plenty of time in front the camera, but he has devoted the past several years to mastering the art of being behind it.
Andran’s photography is not only characterized by his striking balance of vibrant color and minimalist composition, but by how he leverages his experience in the fashion industry to give modeling agencies, brands, and his subjects, of course, “bookable, bankable, and beautiful” photos.
Andran’s coming of artist-hood story begins in quintessential NYC fashion—at 3 a.m. wandering the streets of SoHo—catching up with a former acquaintance who happened to also be a model-turned-photographer.
Andran expressed that, like him, he was also interested in seriously pursuing photography. Andran had taken some headshots for fellow models, and he often found himself creatively directing his own photoshoots.
“I had an eye for photography, but I just needed a camera,” Andran recalled. This photographer, who had never met Andran before that night, offered him his camera for free. While Andran initially dismissed the offer as a drunken, 3 a.m. musing, the photographer made good on his promise the next afternoon, giving Andran his first camera. If that isn’t kismet, what is?
That was December of 2015. One month later, Andran had created a website, lined up bookings using his network of fellow models, and launched his photography Instagram.
It’s only been four years since then, but Andran has already been featured in multiple magazines, worked with NYC and LA’s top agencies, and shot top models, including Victoria’s Secret Angel Shanina Shaik.
Andran has an exceptional knack for transforming any situation into a set, offering unique perspective and injecting artistry into otherwise mundane settings. Whether he’s transforming the sparse landscaping of the West Side Highway into a secret garden or chasing down specks of sunlight in Central Park as the sun sets, Andran always finds a unique way to capture his subjects in their best light.
Andran especially enjoys working with newer faces in the modeling industry; rather than just capturing a model’s signature look, he can help them create their signature look.
“I love when people don’t know what they have. I love when I can help people see themselves in a different way, like ‘woah, that’s me?’” said Andran.
Offering advice to photographers just starting out, Andran stressed the importance of adaptability and creative confidence. Just as Andran enjoys helping models discover their potential, “you have to believe in yourself too; focus on how you can do something rather than why you can’t,” Andran insisted.
When casting directors for acting auditions suggested he model, Andran learned how to model. When his modeling experience led him to explore his interest in photography, he pursued it.
While Andran attributes some of his adaptability to his experience immigrating to New York from Jamaica when he was nine years old, Andran’s innate adventurousness and can-do attitude deserves much of the credit.
Andran is completely self-taught, and until January of 2020, he was still using the same Canon 50D DSLR camera gifted to him that afternoon in SoHo in 2015.
“People are always shocked when they hear that so much of my work up until recently was shot on that camera, but it’s not the camera that matters—it’s the person behind it,”
While Andran focuses primarily on fashion photography, the recent Black Lives Matter protests inspired him to not only document the protests, but to advance the movement in the fashion industry as well.
For years, the fashion industry has failed to enact inclusive hiring practices for fashion photographers. For context, Naomi Campbell’s fall 2019 cover shoot with The Guardian was her first time shooting with a Black photographer in over thirty years.
While racism and favoritism in the fashion industry have stood in the way of equity and inclusion, Andran is among the ranks of the photographers of color intent on ensuring that Black Lives Matter extends to the fashion industry as well. Because just as Black Lives Matter, Black Artists Matter, and Chaniel Andran is one to keep your eye on.
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